New York ex-mayor Koch dies aged 88

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Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, the combative politician who rescued the city from near-financial ruin during three City Hall terms, has died aged 88.

The lifelong bachelor died yesterday of congestive heart failure.

In City Hall, Mr Koch won a national reputation with his feisty style and his trademark question: “How’m I doing?”

During his years as mayor, from 1978 to 1989, his tight fiscal policies pulled the city out of severe financial difficulties. But homelessness and racial tensions soared and critics charged that City Hall’s responses were ineffective.

His mark on the city was set in steel when the Queensboro Bridge, connecting Manhattan to Queens, was renamed in his honour in 2011.

Bald and bombastic, paunchy and pretentious, the city’s 105th mayor was quick with a friendly quip and equally fast with a cutting remark for his political enemies.

The mayor dismissed his critics as “wackos,” waged verbal war with developer Donald Trump and mayoral successor Rudolph Giuliani, lambasted the Rev Jesse Jackson, and once reduced the head of the City Council to tears.“I’m not the type to get ulcers,” he wrote in Mayor, his autobiography. “I give them.”

When President George W. Bush ran for re-election in 2004, Mr Koch, a Democrat, crossed party lines to support him and spoke at the Republican convention. He was also an outspoken supporter of Israel.

The fast-talking, opinionated and sometimes rude Koch became a celebrity, appearing on talk shows and playing himself in a number of movies, including The Muppets Take Manhattan.

Koch was born in the Bronx on December 12, 1924, the second of three children of Polish immigrants. During the Great Depression, his family lived in Newark, New Jersey. The future mayor worked his way through school, checking hats, working behind a delicatessen counter and selling shoes. He served as a combat infantryman in Europe during the Second World War, earning his sergeant stripes.